A Look at the Votes for Women Exhibit
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Votes For Women | Nashville Public Library
In August, America celebrated the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, which was granted when Tennessee cast a tie-breaking vote to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In honor of this centennial year, three Nashville women – Margaret Behm, Jeanie Nelson and Juli Mosely – had a vision to create an interactive exhibit to celebrate and tell the story of the 19th Amendment. Dowdle Construction Group was selected to undertake this special public project in Nashville Public Library’s main location downtown: the Votes For Women exhibit.
The 2,400-square-foot permanent display commemorates the nearly 80-year struggle that women underwent to obtain the right to vote. The exhibit takes visitors through decades of suffragist history and provides a space to explore the core themes surrounding women’s roles, democracy and power.
The spotlight piece of the room is a uniquely designed interactive sitting
area known as the “Halo of Inspiration” (pictured above). Visitors can press buttons to cast their “votes” for various women’s issues. The Halo was meticulously constructed to ensure the circular panel hanging from the ceiling is exactly symmetrical with the LED panel walls as well as the flooring. It is truly the feature piece of the room.
The Nashville Public Library celebrated the virtual grand opening of Votes for Women on August 18, and we are looking forward to the day that the public will be able to experience it in person, once it’s safe to have visitors to the library again. The space is a real treasure for the community, and it was a privilege to have been a part of it.
Read more about the project and its roots in Nashville’s history on our blog.
From the President
In honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, I asked my wife Brenda to write a guest column for my President’s message. Here is Brenda’s message:
Elizabeth Willing Powel asked Benjamin Franklin on the final day of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, “What do we have, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it. Our responsibility is to keep it.”
When I came of age, my father, who was no feminist, told me, “If you can stand in line at Disney World to ride a ride, you can stand in line to vote.” When I got to go to Europe during my college years, visit a concentration camp, go behind the Iron Curtain in East Berlin and go to Prague where the guide was scared to talk to me, I began to appreciate even more how important our democracy and right to vote was.
Years later, Glynn and I took our daughters to Washington, DC on a 6th grade class tour. While in Washington, we went to a war memorial where the words were inscribed, “Freedom is not free.” The names of those who had died fighting for our freedom were also inscribed.
I encourage you to visit the downtown library (when it reopens) and learn the story of the pivotal role that Tennessee played in women obtaining the right to vote. Although Elizabeth Powel could not vote when she asked that question of Benjamin Franklin, she was considered a political influencer of her time. She would no doubt be proud of the epic struggle women went through to obtain the right to vote.
Obtaining the right to vote “was not free”. It was fought with “blood, sweat and tears” and should never be taken for granted. Remembering my father’s admonishment to me, and my awakening in Europe as a young adult, I think I have voted in every election since I came of age.
I am so proud of Margaret Behm, Jeanie Nelson, Juli Mosley, the Nashville Public Library, and (forgive me) of course, Dowdle Construction Group for bringing this especially important story to life. And please go vote this year. We have a republic if we can keep it.
– Brenda Measells Dowdle
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